Sunday, August 29, 2004

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Open progressive conservative thread

Go read David Brooks' cover story for the New York Times Magazine on the future of both conservatism and the Republican Party (not necessarily the same thing).

Brooks opens with a point I've made in recent months:

There used to be a spirit of solidarity binding all the embattled members of the conservative movement. But with conservatism ascendant, that spirit has eroded. Should Bush lose, it will be like a pack of wolves that suddenly turns on itself. The civil war over the future of the party will be ruthless and bloody. The foreign-policy realists will battle the democracy-promoting Reaganites. The immigrant-bashing nativists will battle the free marketeers. The tax-cutting growth wing will battle the fiscally prudent deficit hawks. The social conservatives will war with the social moderates, the biotech skeptics with the biotech enthusiasts, the K Street corporatists with the tariff-loving populists, the civil libertarians with the security-minded Ashcroftians. In short, the Republican Party is unstable.

In sketching out the future governing philosophy of Republicans, however, Brooks offers some depressing words for libertarians:

If you want to put a death date on the tombstone of small-government Republicanism, it would be Nov. 14, 1995. That was the day the new G.O.P. majority shut down the government. Gingrich, Dick Armey and others came to power with a list of hundreds of government programs and agencies they wanted to eliminate, including the Departments of Commerce, Energy and Education. They led what Grover Norquist called the Leave Us Alone coalition, the alliance of all those different Americans who wanted government to get out of their lives. Gingrich vowed to show the world ''how to end programs, not just create them.'' Republicans welcomed a showdown over the size of government because they were convinced that the public would be on their side. Faxes came over the machines vowing, ''No Compromise.'' Senator Phil Gramm celebrated the shutdown. ''Have you really noticed a difference?'' he reportedly asked.

The public did notice, as it turned out, and they didn't like it. Within a few years the Republicans were backtracking so furiously they were proposing to spend more money on the Department of Education than the Clinton administration thought to ask for.

Read the rest of the piece to see the positive vision of government that Brooks offers, in the tradition of Hamilton, Lincoln, and TR. The essay probably offers the most articulate framework for understanding Bush's domestic policy agenda you'll see in the mainstream media. Then come back and post what you think.

[What do you think?--ed. I have a mixed reaction. The overarching philosophy of using government to expand individual choice is an undeniably appealing one. Policies like the earned income tax credit certainly fit into that category. However, I have caveats to Brooks' "progressive conservatism." While there's much discussion of what a conservative government can do, there's less about how it can do this. My inclination is to prefer that the government act more as paymaster than implementor, but I'm not sure Brooks would agree. The boundaries of the Brooksian state don't seem all that constrained. At the end, he argues that a good progressive conservative government could cut useless measures like corporate subsidies, farm subsidies, and needless tariffs. However, it's no coincidence that the intellectual godfather of modern-day protectionism is Alexander Hamilton. Finally, I just hate the phrase "progressive conservative." I understand what Brooks is going for, but it sounds like "pragmatic idealism" or "collective indivudualism."]

posted by Dan on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM


Shorter David Brooks: Will Marshall is right about everything, and the Republicans should steal his ideas and claim they were Teddy Roosevelt's.

posted by: praktike on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I love hearing how conservatism is ascendent. There is a big difference between the ascent of the Republican party and the ascent of conservatism. What part of the classic conservative agenda has succeded? Abortion bans, prayer in schools, small government, lower taxes, balanced budget, lower trade barriers, smaller entitlement programs, a bigger military, staying out of foreign entanglements? The really funny part is that anything that republicans might claim as a part of their agenda that actually got passed, freer trade maybe, was probably done by a democrat and is now being ruined by Bush.

If George W. Bush is supposed to mark the ascendence of conservatism, then I have no clue what conservatism means (unless it's that you pander to constituencies with conflicting policies that may or may not follow your core principles (steel tariffs and a gay marriage amendment being two examples)).

The Republican party is very well run and I can see why they have risen to power recently, but the idea that this marks a success for classical conservatism is ludicrous.

posted by: Ian Dew-Becker on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I think that David Brooks' observation is right on. You are either ideologically pure and out of power for the forseeable future or you do what is acceptable, but tilted however slightly in the direction that you desire.

I think that the 1995 experience should be a warning to those on the left who ascribed the 2002 election results to not being tilted enough towards the left are indulging in a mass-delusion. This is how they got plastered in 1972, 1980, and 1984. Bill Clinton was shrewd enough to understand the principle involved, and won following it.

Jim Bender

posted by: Jim Bender on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

“The public did notice, as it turned out, and they didn't like it”

I long ago realized that Populism is still alive and well in the United States. Please note that the Kerry campaign still blasts away at outsourcing. The two Johns may be telling Robert Rubin and Brad DeLong in private that this rhetoric is pure bovine excrement---but that’s now what is being said to the hoi polloi! The Democratic voters are swallowing this stuff and liking every bit of it.

The conservative ethos that people should be essentially responsible for taking care of their own problems conflicts with selfish human nature. We prefer to believe in the proverbial free lunch, and God help the politicians who fails to see through our hypocrisy. American voters often tell politicians one thing and then expect them to read between the lines.

posted by: David Thomson on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

The problem is that the Republican Party spent 30 years building a power structure (via the infamous Lewis Powell plan) they could use as a vehicle to give them the Presidency, Congress & the Supreme Court through sheer application of power instead of winning in the marketplace of ideas. Basically it lets them win every argument by saying "because we say so" & accountability goes out the window.

The minute they lose that monopoly on power, it's back to square one & they might have to actually explain & defend their ideas once in a while. Personally I see the power grab as illegitimate in the first place, so I won't be sorry to see it fail.


posted by: Tim Keller on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I would like to hear Mr. Brooks describe how seeking approval from the Likud govt and AIPAC prior to implementing foreign policy decisions is in anyway related to conservatism or the historical norms of the Republican Party.

Now, don't call me an anti-semite. But, ask yourself if the foreign policy preferences of the Likud Party are really in tune with what is best for American foreign policy. How do you think Teddy Roosevelt would view the shenanigans coming out of Doug Feith's office?

posted by: r.t. on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

“Now, don't call me an anti-semite”

Nope, I won’t bother to do that. As matter of fact, you may even be Jewish. Self hating Jews are becoming fairly common throughout the United States. Many have been seduced into believing that the Palestinians are primarily victims of Likud Party imperialism. You are, though, a foe of Israel---and probably prefer that John Kerry is elected president. A very large percentage of Democrats despise Israel. It’s just isn’t common knowledge yet. Anyone who perceives the support of Israel as important should be voting for President Bush.

posted by: David Thomson on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

rt - I won't call you an anti-semite based on that one comment. I'm Jewish, and a Zionist, and *I* hate the Likud. They're just an Israeli version of Bushco.

posted by: CaseyL on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

1. The only way to improve education is to completely shut down the private/religious schools and force everyone into public schools. That would mean that the middle class and rich white parents would have to become involved. Fascism? Of course, but that IS the solution.

2. I know a ton about ag subsidies and there is a long post here. Cutting to the chase, without subsidies the farmers grow so much food that prices drop to depression levels and most are forced out of business. If you are ready to pay $.50 a bu for beans (currently over $6) ditto or less for wheat (currently over $3 per bu) and so on it sounds great. When all our food is imported from foreign countries like we do oil you will be sorry. It is a complicated scenario and a lot of subsidies are horrible (the sugar being the worst) but when you get to the things we eat, it ain't funny to be dependent upon a foreign cartel.

posted by: Howard Veit on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]


I'm sorry, I don't get the argument about Gingrich's failed "revolution" being a great loss to libertarians everywhere. Even if we accept that Newt was essentially a libertarian rather than the revolutionary he claimed to be, you must admit that in a democracy there are severe limits to how far and how fast radical political movements like his can go. If you don't have popular support your most brilliant ideas go nowhere and you end up writing historial fiction and reviewing books on

Brooks' point is a fair one: govt must recognize that most Americans WANT it to help those in need (but not TOO much). Bush is okay with that, and would like to implement programs that encourage "good behavior" with carrots rather than merely whipping recalcitrants with large sticks. The poor man's problem is that he has NO idea how to get from point A to B, no control over congressional Republicans (which I wish Brooks had touched on) and no discernible path from future progress.

That said, Kerry and the Dems really DON'T see a problem with the status quo.

So we have a guy who (maybe) has an inkling of an idea but no good plan for implementation vs. a guy with no ideas except a return to Elysian fields (of when? pre-Nixonian America? I really have no clue). I'll take my chances (with Brooks it seems) with the former.

posted by: Kelli on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

"The only way to improve education is to completely shut down the private/religious schools and force everyone into public schools. "

Wow. I think that would actually be the most unconstitutional law ever passed, save perhaps McCain Feingold.

Brooks has it mostly right. I think the only way to bring libertarianism to the forefront is through the courts. Libertarians have the better arguments when it is focused on the constitution and the role of the federal government. I prefer original intent conservatism to national greatness conservatism, which sounds too much like national socialism for my tastes.

Here is a far-out fantasy. Bush wins in 04, and Republicans win enough Senators to be able to get pretty much any SC justice onto the bench. Scalia retires and runs for president in 08, demolishing Hillary and radically transforming the presidency and the federal government to bring it back in line with original intent.

posted by: SG-Baby on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Here is a far-out fantasy. Bush wins in 04, and Republicans win enough Senators to be able to get pretty much any SC justice onto the bench. Scalia retires and runs for president in 08, demolishing Hillary and radically transforming the presidency and the federal government to bring it back in line with original intent.

Please pass over whatever it is your smoking because I want to experience this myself - even if for only for a few minutes.

As a conservative who's probably somewhere between Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage in how I personally feel about the president, it's amusing nonetheless to see the level of despondency across the political spectrum as regards to President Bush. Conservatives think he's not conservative enough, liberals think he's the most far-right president in history, and neocons think he could do with a bit more neoconservatism. Is there anyone in this country who is fully satisfied with President other than Zell Miller?

As for "progressive" conservatism, doesn't it essentially recquire that such types always be in power? What I mean by that is the tacit assumption is that you can utilize the government in a manner to control the government. Design a health care system, for example, that expands service but also creates opportunities for privatization. That's great, but what if someone comes along who likes the expanded service, but can do without the privitization aspect? The program is still there, but without the conservative limits. The point being that once you create a program, even if the intentions are conservative, then there's nowhere to go but up, up and away.

posted by: Paul on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Here's a conservative approach that's very progressive: in broad terms,

-- help people who need help. That means, most often, the sick, the elderly, and children.

-- where the state intervenes, do no harm. That means, End the death penalty--immediately, everywhere. Do not interfere between a woman and her doctor. Do not attempt to legislate one way or the other about the sacrament of marriage, which only churches and temples and mosques may administer.

-- wherever possible, smash trade barriers and barriers to the free movement of ideas and people. Allow any immigrant with a college degree who passes a security clearance to enter this country.

Conservative in that it wisely restrains the state's tendency toward mischief. Progressive in that it recognizes the inability of many, not all, not most, social processes to do justice to the weakest in this society.

If there were ever a time for a third party, it's now. And, yes, it should call itself the Progressive Party, because both of the major parties today are corrupt, reified, self-referential and reactionary. A pox on 'em both.

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Nine pages? Christ.

Brooks: "immigrant-bashing nativists"

That's a bit odd. None of the other groups seem to have been mischaracterized. I wonder, would Brooks consider Barbara Jordan a "nativist"? Quote: "The Commission decries hostility and discrimination against immigrants as antithetical to the traditions and interests of this country. At the same time, we disagree with those who would label efforts to control immigration as being inherently anti-immigrant. Rather, it is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest."

Bush has utterly failed in his responsibilities in this regard.

Minor case in point: recent minor immigration sweeps in SoCal were stopped after Mexico and a Mexican-American congressman complained. That's despite DHS having received thousands of emails and phone calls from citizens in support of the sweeps. That's not a conservative move; one wonders whether even John Kerry would sink to that level.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Actually I would trace the end of the libertarian/conservative movement to Clinton's signing of Welfare Reform. For the truly principled libertarians like those around here, welfare reform was simply the removal of a burdensome and patronizing welfare state apparatus that had left its recipients utterly dependent upon government largesse. But what made welfare reform politically popular to many - especially in the Republican Party - was not the "socialistic" philosophy of AFDC per se but the nature of its recipients: blacks. In most societies people tend to support government hand-out programs when they perceive the recipients to be like themselves - an aunt who fell on hard times, a grandmother with little life savings, a brother whose factory job was eliminated, etc. Thus support for Medicare and Social Security remains very high - most voters personally know somebody who benefits from these programs. But when the recipients of welfare seem fundamentally different - and in the American context that means racially - then the larger white society sees the recipients as undeserving, lazy, shiftless, culturally depraved, etc. - in other words not worthy of any government aid. After Clinton signed Welfare Reform much of the GOP's energy for shrinking government seemed to dissipate. Welfare reform was the last, and most successful conservative/libertarian achievement by the Republican Party (and co-opted by centrist Democrats). But the lesson in its passage shows how little the GOP really cares about libertarian principles, and how much it cares about white racial anxiety.

posted by: Elrod on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

"Is there anyone in this country who is fully satisfied with President other than Zell Miller?"

I know nobody who is fully satisfied with President Bush. He’s merely is the lesser of evils. John Kerry is not fit to lead our nation. The Massachusetts senator lies too easily. I seriously contend that Kerry possesses no substantial political philosophy. It’s merely a matter of espousing the rhetoric that will help him politically. Such an individual cannot be trusted.

"But when the recipients of welfare seem fundamentally different - and in the American context that means racially - then the larger white society sees the recipients as undeserving, lazy, shiftless, culturally depraved, etc. - in other words not worthy of any government aid."

Nonesense. On the contrary, Charles Murray and others have pointed out the growing number of white people on the welfare rolls. Race has nothing to do with their conclusions. And please don't remind me of Murray's dumb writings on the Bell Curve. That's another matter entirely.

posted by: David Thomson on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

John Kerry is not fit to lead our nation. The Massachusetts senator lies too easily. I seriously contend that Kerry possesses no substantial political philosophy.

As opposed to the six treatises of governance Bush II has penned?

posted by: Sam Hutcheson on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

for years the conservative party in canada WAS called the 'progressive conservative party", and members of its liberal wing were called 'red tories' -- progressive on social policy, conservative (in the canadian context) on fiscal policy. the PCs would probably be considered centrist democrats in the US -- still too far to the left for brooks' tastes, i suspect

posted by: AIJ on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

"Just as socialism will no longer be the guiding goal for the left..."

Is it really a fair assumption to make that socialism was ever the "guiding goal" for the left?

posted by: The Liberal Avenger on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

You're missing the point. Sure there are more white people on welfare than blacks. But the stereotyped image of the welfare recipient has never been the Appalachian mother of 6 or the outer suburban trailer park dweller or the down-on-her-luck white divorcee who lost her factory job. It was the "cadillac-driving welfare queen" (a very thinly veiled reference to the blackness of the AFDC recipient) to quote a certain Republican President. It's the perception that matters. Most people really thought welfare was just a tool for taking money from honest, hardworking white people and giving it to lazy, ungrateful blacks so they can spend it on crack, Cadillacs and fancy shoes. Race was absolutlely central to political support for Welfare Reform.

posted by: Elrod on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

American conservatives don't fit the traditional Burkean model, which is devoted to preserving not just social mores but also social hierarchies and is profoundly pessimistic about human nature. Ronald Reagan, optimist, self-made man and radical capitalist par excellence, was anything but conservative in this sense.

That goes for the American experience of religion today. Regardless of the denomination, American religiosity is optimistic, sunny, anything-goes. It's more therapeutic than doctrinal.

If American capitalism is open and freewheeling, radical in its destruction of hierarchies and elites; and if American religion is devoted more to self-help and "inspiration" than to reminding one of the vanity of human wishes; then a movement dedicated to American-style capitalism and religion should not be called "conservative."

Given its radical levelling and individualistic tendencies, this movement more "progressive" than conservative.

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

If all these warring schisms within the GOP are to be exposed and ignited with a BC04 loss, then I predict a most vicious and merciless effort by the GOP to win this election and avoid such exposure. We have yet to endure the trashiest of the campaigning.

posted by: wishIwuz2 on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

The "schism" is not limited to the Republicans. It's a national schism. With the exception of a few cranks on the extremes, Americans across the spectrum want low taxes and high entitlement spending.

Neither party, and few Americans, want to be told that a nation with a low savings rate cannot sustain big gov't and low taxes without the kindness of foreign creditors. Virtually no one aside from Pete Peterson and Robert Samuelson of the Post (and occasionally Krauthammer) will tell the children that Santa does not exist and that our nation is heading toward the cliff. The contemporary "debates" within each party are a joke.

What will it take to get the nation to focus on the 800 lb gorilla in the room? The dollar falling to 0.50 to the euro? Gas at $4 per gallon? Mortgage rates spiking to 10%+?

A pox on both houses

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

There are more alternatives available to contemporary political lesaders than:

* Help Bush in his Iraq misadventure
* Appease terrorists, to use Drezner's doublespeak.

To wit, they can join the majority of nations that oppose both Bush's and Al Qaeda's idiotically misplaced aggression.

It sure is enlightening to put those two names next to each other.

posted by: goethean on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Lex - you are correct that both sides suffer from such schisms - and my wording may have suggested otherwise. Not my intent.

I wished (wishI?) to express my view that the GOP, with more power in hand, has much more to lose than just the presidency, and may thus behave more like a wounded animal.

The type of party splits to which Brooks refers are already mostly exposed on the DFL side, but many in the GOP have yet to acknowledge theirs.

posted by: wishIwuz2 on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I found the Brooks piece surprisingly unsophisticated in its treatment of the role of government intervention. For instance, Brooks keeps mentioning socialism as the main inspiration for the "American left" and the government programs that define the U.S. welfare state. I would hardly label Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnston "socialists." In fact, most historians have wondered why socialism or even social democracy has never taken root as an influential ideology in U.S. politics. The conservative reflex to call every idea that implies expansion of government programs "socialist" has always been there, but that doesn't make it right.

Also, it is hardly a mystery why the "small government" Republicans are losing out. Look simply at the increasing congruence in the areas where Republican congressmen are from and where demand for government intervention is highest. Winning the South/Mid-West comes at a cost. I is very generous to label this as a new ideological stream of thought. The poor choice of labels only makes it worse.

posted by: Zaoem on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Not socialist as regards government entities managing industries, true, but certainly the New Deal were social democratic in terms of intervention to provide direct assistance to workingmen and limit capitalism's harsher effects on them. This was standard fare for any European social democratic party platform in the first part of the 20th century. See the SPD in Germany or Labor in the UK.

Americans are schizophrenic about socialism. They want vast entitlement programs aimed at guaranteeing pensions and redistributing wealth so long as those programs are directed at the middle class and are effected primarily by transfers. Still, many of these middle-class programs entail massive government intervention in the marketplace to actually set prices, define standards and limit choices. In other words, in at least two crucial areas-- health care and education-- we have a large degree of what is in reality socialist interventionism, and the public's happy with that.

Neither party has come up with a coherent ideology or platform that can make sense of this schizophrenia and yield a workable national consensus so as to avoid fiscal collapse.

Here's a very simplified, modest proposal: socialist intervention for children, the elderly, and the sick; capitalist competition for everyone else.

So a massive increase in transfers for college tuition, elementary and secondary education, for medicare, medicaid, social security and probably for corporate pension fund bailouts as well.

And a huge decrease in transfers to and trade protection for farmers, industries, unions, redundant army bases, etc. A huge decrease in all manner of protectionism, from the FCC's scandalous favoring of the baby Bells to the recent absurd energy industry porkfest. At the state level, reform of workers' comp and "jackpot justice" tort settlements.

Help those who really need help, and slash everywhere else. Socialism for the halt, the lame, the elderly and the young. Capitalism for the rest of us.

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I have said it before I will say it again; Bush is not a conservative, never has been. He is at best a moderate. But in a choice between a moderate and hard leftist, the choice should be fairly clear to any libertatian which of the two will be friendlier to libertarian causes.

That said, I've seen several libertarians publicly take the idea of putting the liberal in office and letting them destroy the government, which seems to me suicidal at best.

And by the way, I can't let slide goethean's comments... News flash; This is an either-or choice. You supposrt Mr. Bush's actions, or you support the terrorists...There is no third option. Even Kerry has not been able to cough up a better idea... and certainly he if anyone is motivated to do so.

posted by: Bithead on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

This happens to every political movement, victim of its own success. Its not that New Deal liberalism so much died out, its that it succeeded to get implimented and then fractured. Same with Great Society liberalism. Hence the term 'movement', it moves a certain distance than it stops. The Gingrich Revolution died the day John Kasich left the congress. The neocon revolution will suffer the same fate sooner or later, the seed of its downfall are inherint in its makeup. This war will end and the democrats will take back control of government, likely on a 'fiscal responsibility' platform. Its healthy ultimately, but during wartime everything is on hold.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

David Brooks gives his thoughts on how to save the Republican Party from itself, and unsurprisingly his suggestion is that the party come around to his way of thinking.

"National Greatness" Conservatism was never really compatible with Small Government Conservatism. Don't forget that the original Neocons were progressives that moved to the right due to their staunch Anti-Communism. They never completely abandoned those old progressive beliefs.

I think Brooks is a little premature in pronouncing the death of Small Government Conservatism. The one issue that has been holding together the Republican coalition is tax cuts. It is yet to be seen whether Anti-Islamism can take over that role the way that Anti-Communism used to.

posted by: Noah on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

David Brooks gives his thoughts on how to save the Republican Party from itself, and unsurprisingly his suggestion is that the party come around to his way of thinking.

This is the problem with any pundit - the inability to see that their ideology may not be the ideology of the majority after all. There is a book that recently came out written by two journalists from the Economist, and it was on the American conservative movement. I forget the name but I am sure most of you are familiar with it. Anyway, unsurprisingly they posit that an economically conservative, socially libertarian style of conservatism is what will prove to be electorally most succefull for the conservative movement - in other words their type of conservatism is the way to go.

In reality Brooks is probably more correct than many of us would feel comfortable admitting. Yet giving in to big government conservatism is a self-defeating attitude, and hardly reflective of the imagery of conservatives standing athwart history and yelling "STOP!"

posted by: Paul on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Bithead wrote,

"This is an either-or choice. You supposrt Mr. Bush's actions, or you support the terrorists...There is no third option. "

If this is a statement about who to vote for then I can understand, but not agree, with it. However, if it a real statement on policy then it needs a bit more explanation.

Is it that Bush is our leader and whatever he does against the terrorists is the only way? What if he decided to drop a nuclear bomb on Saudi Arabia? Wouldn't there be a third option that was not nuclear war and not letting the terrorists win?

I think more and more of Americans are seeing that there are alternatives. We did not have to invade Iraq to defeat "the terrorists". There was a third option which was to contain Sadaam, focus on fighting Al Qaeda, and make Americans safer at home.

The idea that whatever Bush does is right and whatever else is "letting the terrorists win" is dangerously simplistic thinking for a very complicated time.

posted by: Rich on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

*This is an either-or choice. You supposrt Mr. Bush's actions, or you support the terrorists...There is no third option.*

Bit - it is exactly your "my way or the highway" misphrasing of the issue that gets my political dandruff up. The choice was never between the goals of the terrorists and Bush's actions, because if so, I'll take Kerry's nuanced considerations, with all their potential delay, over your neoconcarne any day.

We should fully be able to agree/disagree with Bush's goals, yet separate that from whether we agree/disagree with his methods. The Bushie talking heads utterly refuse to acknowledge that - the faith is just too overpowering.

(OK, I see Rich already addressed this with a cooler head. I'll simmer down)

MB - "during wartime" -? We were just told it's a war we can't win. How long should things be on hold?

posted by: wishIwuz2 on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

posted by: The Liberal Avenger on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I did not think much of the article, if only because I believe, as a nation, we are at a period of history where one party's thoughts on healthcare and tort reform don't mean that much. Pretty soon, our deficit will start to destroy the pretty spending dreams of our two parties, and the entitlement reform that is a theme of the article will be the property of both parties. I just hope it happens before the country's economy has to relive the 70s.

I did, however, find one interesting quote, that pretty much puts in the words why I feel more comfortable with Kerry than Bush:

''A singular fact about modern war is that it takes charge. Once begun it has to be carried to its conclusion, and carrying it there sets in motion events that may be beyond men's control. Doing what has to be done to win, men perform acts that alter the very soil in which society's roots are nourished.''

I find Bush unable to wage war, because he does not have the skills necessary to perform the basic minsterial functions of his position. Kerry, at least, has that. I'm depending on history to guide him to this war's conclusion.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

So anyone really suppose that the terrorists are going to appriciate Kerry's being more nuanced, to the point where they'll give up ther stated goals?
I'm saying that Bush's means of dealing with tihs has been correct thusfar, and looks to be better than anything Kerry or anyone else has come up with.
Allow me to remind you, that trying to negotiate with these, sincetead of treating them as the thugs they are, is how we GOT here, in the first place.... as the French are now finding out.

Containing Saddam was no longer an option, particularly given what we knew than and what we know now... Like for example; Has anyone noticed that we've had no further attacks on us here at home?

Sadr gives us clear indication of the mindset we're dealing with here. Those so dedicated will come in hrough any leak, like water, to do their will. They've descovered as Sadr did, that negotiations can be used as a method of hamstringing your enemy (us). Of course let's also remember Saddam did the same. As has Iran, and Korea.

Sounds harsh to say it, but Bush has it right.. here's only two methods of dealing with the problem... their death or ours. Guess which way I vote?

And perhaps I should in final, point up the report via AP yesterday....

"The chilling sights and sounds of war fill newspapers and television screens worldwide, but war itself is in decline, peace researchers report. In fact, the number killed in battle has fallen to its lowest point in the post-World War II period, dipping below 20,000 a year by one measure. Peacemaking missions, meantime, are growing in number. "International engagement is blossoming," said American scholar Monty G. Marshall. "There's been an enormous amount of activity to try to end these conflicts."

I submit the reason everyone's suddenly so willing to 'talk is the person wileding the most formidable bat, has also shown a wilingness to USE it.

posted by: Bithead on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I unfortunately associate myself with enough political historian types to hear "progressive conservative" used not infrequently.

posted by: M on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

"MB - "during wartime" -? We were just told it's a war we can't win. How long should things be on hold?"

A good question. The electorate will decide. They could decide this november, but sadly our enemies will be of a differing opinion. The American people arent dumb and in many ways they are smarter that the pundits. When Iran and Syria arent churning out terrorists and NK is either defanged or utterly contained, and when democracy is on the march in the Middle East, it will be pretty clear the war is winding down. Much like the Cold War, there wont likely be a VE,VJ day. But the signs will be there.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

"Finally, I just hate the phrase "progressive conservative." I understand what Brooks is going for, but it sounds like "pragmatic idealism" or "collective indivudualism."

Without a doubt, it is the 'conservative' label that is inaccurate. What is being conserved? Aside from the Buchanon isolationist wing of the party, the republicans are in nearly every facet the progressives, particularly when it comes to foriegn policy. Dont mistake 'diplomacy' for 'progressiveism'.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

David Brooks seems to miss, in my opinion, a keypoint of the neo-con appeal and a major reason for their success in unifying conservatives despite clear differences in opinion on policy issues. They are macho. They believe that "consequences" are things to be "dealt with" as opposed to softened or worked around. Didn't the President actually tell Iraqi terrorists to "bring it on?" That's taking, er, "self reliance" a bit far, no?

Deficit spending is pitched, ultimately, in the same vein. To decry the need for a balanced budget is called "pessimism," as though worrying that historical economic trends (that deficits hurt the economy) is some kind of underestimation of a mythical force.

Here's an exercise -- replace "the economy" or any other attribute of society that the President is discussing with the word "He-man" and see if the logic doesn't, in fact, fit better.

What Brooks wants is a reinvigoration of a particular rational point of view -- Teddy Roosevelt, so that it can spar with a slightly different, but also rational, point of view -- Franklin Roosevelt. I don't know where to find those guys. I see a lot of He-mans and equally anti-rational Cringers (for those who used to watch the show) running around.

posted by: Drewbetuesday on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

David Brooks bites off quite a lot in this piece. He does make some sound observations about the Republican Party, and policy prescriptions I agree with more often than not.

What is striking about his discussion of the Federalist/Whig/Republican tradition of limited but activist government as embodied by Hamilton, Lincoln and Roosevelt is what it leaves out. What it leaves out are Hamilton, Lincoln and Roosevelt; the first who achieved his greatest success under Washington's aegis, the second who only became President because party leaders did not want either an overt abolitionist or a Northeasterner heading the ticket in 1860, and the third who became President only after McKinley was assassinated.

There are two points here. The first, most obviously, is that to lead a "progressive conservative" movement (or any other kind) a leader must reach power somehow. It is very hard to see how anyone armed with the programmatic portfolio Brooks outlines could come anywhere close to the White House these days; he would first have to contend with the Permanent Campaign (Republican Division), which tends to squeeze most original minds and dynamic personalities to the sidelines as too risky.

That leads to the second point, suggested by Brooks' rather academic discussion of past "progressive conservative" movements and what they did. Of course none of the instances he discusses were matters of great leaders thinking up new ideas and implementing them on their own; American politics has never worked that way. But Hamilton's brilliance and energy, Lincoln's war leadership and mastery of language, Roosevelt's shrewdness and overwhelming personal popularity were required for the ideas they championed to become policies and institutions.

The Republican leaders available today, constrained by the need to be always fundraising, positioning and spinning, are of a substantially lower order. This is so not only in terms of their ability but also of their personality, the impression they are liable to make on the public. Look at the Convention speakers this week. One man nearly 70, another a foreign movie star who owes his governorship to his predecessor's collapse, and Rudy Giuliani: respectively a man with no political future, one with no past, and a third with no constituency.

Agree with Brooks's ideas or not, someone has to carry this water. I don't see who that is, whether Bush wins or loses this November.

posted by: Zathras on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

One man nearly 70, another a foreign movie star who owes his governorship to his predecessor's collapse, and Rudy Giuliani: respectively a man with no political future, one with no past, and a third with no constituency.

A nice turn of phrase, but the elegance deceives. the second man definitely has botha future and a constituency-- in fact, his constituency is so solid as to cause paleo-cons like George Will to decry his style of governance as pernicious demogogy. And the first man is on the podium preceisely because his own following is so fierce and numerous. As to the third, he has a very potent past and, should he decide to rejoin the fray, an equally potent future. That's a pretty good showing, especially when compared to the Carterite losers and the young isolationist lefty that the Dems put forth last month.

What the political careers of Arnold and Giuliani demonstrate is an unwillingness to tolerate corrupt and decrepit ideas, aka bullshit, in politics. Giuliani dismissed the notion that squeegee men and muggers were tender souls deserving understanding from wicked, oppressive citizenry. Arnold dismissed the notion that Gray Davis's "pay to play" was a normal and acceptable way to transact the people's business. Miraculously, very substantial majorities in two heavily Democratic electorates agreed with each of these men.

There is hope. Burke said, "The only thin necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The first step is to attack the conventional wisdom with a select few basic, obvious, common sense propositions, and hammer them home again and again. Refuse to play along with the freak show, do not "pay to play," do not play for pay.

Whether that can be done nationally, within the two parties, is another question.

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I like to think of myself as a "tax-and-spend conservative": I'm in favor of using tax revenue for right-wing social engineering. That said, I'm still a registered Democrat: egalitarianism and cultural conservatism go hand in hand.

So I was alarmed and dismayed by the extent to which I agreed with David Brooks's column on Sunday. What have I become? (gulp!) -- Some kind of Republican??

posted by: Arjun on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I'm in favor of using tax revenue for right-wing social engineering

You mean, like faith-based school programs to provide secondary virginity on demand?

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Answer: No, that sounds like a gross violation of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

However, I am for school uniforms, I am for forced testing, I'm against bilingual education (my patients are bilingual because of its absence), I have no objection to targeted vouchers for private or religious schools, and I'm for gender segregation in some public schools.

posted by: Arjun on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

My favorite proposal for right-wing social engineering would be a massive wage-subsidy program, accompanied by some form of universal health insurance coverage, and by the complete elimination of such social welfare programs as food stamps and subsidized housing. That way, people would be both required and enabled to earn their own money and make their own decisions.

posted by: Arjun on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Howard Veit,

You have it exactly backwards, the only way to improve education is to end the public school monopoly. Allow parents to pick schools that do a good job and the number of schools that do a good job will grow in size and numbers. Your idea just gives more power to the unions and bureaucrats who screwed education up in the first place.

You are also wrong on ag subsidies. Ag subsidies reward the corrupt and incompetent, punish the honest and hard working, cause immense environmental damage, make it impossible for new farmers to get a start and increase the cost to consumers. The best way to help farmers is to end ag subsidies now. For further information read the book "Farm Fiasco" by James Bovard and check out the environmental working groups ag subsidy website.

You illustrate the problem the "conservative" movement currently has. Many so called conservatives are willing to grow the size of government if the pork is directed to their favorite big government cause.

That is why I support the Club for Growth. They support fiscally conservative candidates, especially if they are running against pork barrel loving RINOs.

posted by: TJIT on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]


You like to create government programs for right wing social engineering. These programs are then run by left wing bureaucracies who staff them with left wingers who use your "right wing social engineering" programs to drive left wing social changes. End result of your social engineering bigger government and a more left wing society.

If social conservatives actually tried to shrink the size of government and promote personal responsibility they would be much more likely to get the family friendly, conservative society they want.

posted by: TJIT on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Lex, I think if you hear any of the Republican convention speakers this week declare that pay for play must be banned from politics you will immediately see several dozen delegates, lobbyists and party officials pass out from fright.

What you describe as the way to change conventional political wisdom is a tactic for winning election campaigns: repetition of "common sense truths" (or poll-tested phrases) most voters agree with, often enough for voters to identify them with one's preferred candidate. It has worked as well for Hillary Clinton in New York as it has for George Allen in Virginia.

Governing is something completely different, something Hamilton, Lincoln and Roosevelt would have had no trouble recognizing. In the careers of each of these men their campaigns are a footnote; in the careers of our leading politicians today the campaign is the main event. If you want to know the biggest obstacle to David Brooks's "progresive conservatism," there it is.

posted by: Zathras on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Re: Brooks' bit about reaction to the gov't shutdown & actual attacks on social programs:

Unfortunately for our politics, the american public is, and for the most part has been for quite some time, grossly prone to contradiction & acceptance of blatantly crap information. Limited-government advocates are a peculiar sort in the way that anyone who pays attention enough to have a solid opinion is strange.

Most of the ones that determine who fills the seats in our government fit into categories like this:

-pro-welfare-staters for raw self-interest reasons. They passively support "Big Benevolent Government for me and not for thee" and don't even care about the conflict, see it as irrelevant.

-"they're honest...right?". Remember the old sayings about how if people knew how hotdogs were made no one would want to eat them? This group is the political equivalent of the people referred to by that. They favor extensive social engineering only because they haven't been shown the price tag & how it's carried out. Asking them to question the welfare state is like trying to tell a 6 year old there's no Santa Claus.

-Emotionalists. These people don't specifically support an interventionist gov't moreso than they hold strongly the view that the alternative is "mean" and thus unfathomable somehow. They don't listen to arguements about the expense of Big Government because to them any price is worth it, and attempting to argue otherwise is morally equivalent to kicking puppies or cheering when children starve -- Scrooge mixed with Hitler, in their view.

As for "progressive conservatism"...that phrase had me rolling my eyes every bit as hard as "compassionate conservatism" did when Bush rolled it out. Bottom line, if you believe that the federal government has as a legitimate roll the constant "tweaking" of society to address ills that the human race has been dealing with for its entire existence (IMO) you are in no way a "conservative" and should stop calling yourself one. Conservatism has as Rule Number One that grand schemes to "save" humanity are doomed to failure because man is too deeply flawed to entrust anyone among men with the power to attempt it, you cannot simultaneously believe this and advocate the expansion of Federal Program X, no matter how much it's painted as "reform".

posted by: b-psycho on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Brooks mentions but does not develop the one reason this whole debate is largely pointless.

When the government spends a third or more of GDP, it makes no sense to talk as if the arguments and issues of Hamilton's or Lincoln's day are relevant. Government is locked in by transfers, interest groups, commitments, and vote-buying so much that there is little, if any, scope for political action. Any such action amounts to marginal vote-buying. Strategic decisions and bold designs for more or less government are for show. None of it means anything, since no one can imagine how to get back to a level of spending that would allow real room for maneuver. And 99 per cent of politicians don't want to go back there anyway.

Americans are entering the European trap, the trap where no politician can propose any bold policy for fear of scaring away the median voter. The median voter is now coming to believe that he stands more to lose than to gain from lower government spending. Therefore no politician of whatever color will ever credibly propose lower spending on anything that might offend anybody, and that means anything important. The gridlock is here and will stay until world war, total terror, a new Black Death, a meteor strike or some other event sweeps away the sludge. See Mancur Olson on all this.

posted by: David G on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

In response to the response (which I greatly appreciate -- thank you) about left-wing bureaucracies, I would note that my radical redistributionist tax-and-spend conservative proposal to replace almost the entire social welfare apparatus with a generous wage-subsidy program would promote freedom rather than restricting freedom (except that people would lose their "right" to get money from the government for doing nothing) and eliminate bureacracies rather than empowering bureaucracies.

posted by: Arjun on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

"I would note that my radical redistributionist tax-and-spend conservative proposal to replace almost the entire social welfare apparatus with a generous wage-subsidy program would promote freedom rather than restricting freedom "

Man I hope that is a tongue in cheek proposal. Wage subsidies arent free, universal healthcare isnt free (meaning liberty or lunch). And they sure as hell dont run without huge bureacracies. Go check out the Canadian healthcare system. Great if you have a cold, not so great if the dialysis line is 6 months and you have 5 months to live. Freedom?

posted by: mark Buehner on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]


Point taken about the diff btn electioneering and governing. However, your examples of Hillary and George Allen sidestepped one of the points I made in my preferred examples of Giuliani and Arnold. There is indeed room in this society for men of courage and clarity to buck the red-blue status quo, both in gaining office and governing.

Also, the junior Senator from New York has indeed shown courage of the sort I propose. As part of the task of governing-- as opposed to preaching to the sisterhood-- she has challenged her party's BS on nat'l security and moved noticeably to the center, forgoing the HHS or Labor committees for the Armed Svcs committee and giving strong support to Rumsfeld last April, for ex., when the war seemed to be bogged down.

Overall, though, I don't disagree with your basic premise; I just think that there is indeed a greater public appetite for courageous, principled governance than our Beltway betters suppose.

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

This leads to the issue of the role of the state. Neocons do not like the concentration of services in the welfare state and are happy to study alternative ways of delivering these services. But they are impatient with the Hayekian notion that we are on "the road to serfdom." Neocons do not feel that kind of alarm or anxiety about the growth of the state in the past century, seeing it as natural, indeed inevitable. Because they tend to be more interested in history than economics or sociology, they know that the 19th-century idea, so neatly propounded by Herbert Spencer in his "The Man Versus the State," was a historical eccentricity. People have always preferred strong government to weak government, although they certainly have no liking for anything that smacks of overly intrusive government. Neocons feel at home in today's America to a degree that more traditional conservatives do not. Though they find much to be critical about, they tend to seek intellectual guidance in the democratic wisdom of Tocqueville, rather than in the Tory nostalgia of, say, Russell Kirk.

The Neoconservative Persuasion
From the August 25, 2003 issue: What it was, and what it is.
by Irving Kristol

posted by: NeoDude on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Social Democrats, USA
815 15th Street, NW Suite 511
Washington, DC 2005
Copyright: 1996, SD, USA

Splitting the Republican Coalition
Kristol points out that the conservative revolution in the Republican Party occurred in 1964 when Rockefeller lost the presidential nomination. He argues that the liberal revolution captured the Democratic Party in 1972 with the nomination of George McGovern.

Kristol described the current Republican coalition as consisting primarily of two main strains: economic and social conservatives. The economic conservatives are anti-state and the social conservatives are anti-liberal who view liberalism "as corroding and subverting the virtues that they believe must be the bedrock of decent society." He believes that the differences between the economic conservatives and the social conservatives produce "tensions" between the two groups. Kristol's long range view is that the social conservatives represent "an authentic mass movement that gathers strength with every passing year."

posted by: NeoDude on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

The real question is, will the center right coalition fracture faster than the center left coalition? Our electoral system being what it is, coalitions are formed not in support of ideas so much as in opposition to the other guy's ideas.

Conservatism and the Republican party look like they do because they respond to movements of the other coalition to expand their membership. The flood gates of vote buying have been opened, and the rule now is 'buy votes or cease to exist in a politically meaningful way.'

The left coalition is largely based on direct transfers and preferences. Each member of the coalition expects literally to be paid for their support. What does the NAACP want? What does labor want? What does the AARP want? As long as we are in a position of growing wealth to be handed out, and as long as there is someone not in the coalition from whom you can take the money, the left coalition will be on the rise. If everyone winds up robbing themselves to pay coalition members (i.e. everyone's retirement depends on the success of American business), or if there simply isn't enough money to go around, the left coalition devours itself, and at that moment the right coalition will cease to look like it does as well.

Ideological opposition on the right has the benefit of not being physically exclusive in the way a dollar is.

posted by: Jason Ligon on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

If everyone winds up robbing themselves to pay coalition members (i.e. everyone's retirement depends on the success of American business), or if there simply isn't enough money to go around, the left coalition devours itself, and at that moment the right coalition will cease to look like it does as well.

Actually, there's an easy solution, one that's increasingly applied as the boomers age: screw the kids. They don't vote.

Even when they reach their early twenties, they still don't vote in meaningful numbers. In any case as the current generation of children and youth ages it will continue to be vastly outnumbered by the graying boomers, who can simply leave them to suffer the effects of Asian central bankers dumping their Treasury holdings.

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

"Actually, there's an easy solution, one that's increasingly applied as the boomers age: screw the kids. They don't vote."

Absolutely right. There aren't enough of them (us)even if they did vote.

Those like me currently in our 30s are going to bear the brunt of this. The only thing that mitigates the damage is the amount of old 401(k) money the boomers will be paying taxes on, and that isn't nearly enough to save us. We will be saving for their retirement, their medicine, their extended lifespans, and whatever else they want to vote themselves in addition to somehow trying to help ourselves. I am pessimistic that there is a solution for us.

posted by: Jason Ligon on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

As I see it there are two solutions for us. Either we

a) fend for ourselves, and work furiously to heap up as much money and live as cheaply as we can,


b) we set about organizing a third party that will make fiscal sanity and a realistic treatment of entitlement spending as core objectives for the nation.

I'm doing a) and pondering the best way to help achieve b) without undermining a).

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Niall Ferguson for Kerry (compares Bush to John Major)

Yes, I know, the official GOP line is that nothing could possibly be as bad for the U.S. as a Kerry presidency. According to the Bush campaign, John Kerry's record of vacillation and inconsistency in the Senate would make him a disastrously indecisive POTUS--an IMPOTUS, as it were. By contrast, they insist, Mr. Bush is decisiveness incarnate. And when this president makes a decision, he sticks to it with Texan tenacity (no matter how wrong it turns out to be).

Fareed Zakaria on the implications of growing anti-Americanism

In this post-ideological age, anti-Americanism fills the void left by defunct belief systems. It has become a powerful trend in international politics today—and perhaps the most dangerous. U.S. hegemony has its problems, but a world that reacts instinctively against the United States will be less peaceful, less cooperative, less prosperous, less open, and less stable.

Vice mag on labels

By the way, simply saying someone is "right wing" doesn't count as an apt criticism. Have you ever even listened to the other side's positions? Then shut your face. And Republicans, do you even know anyone in the sex industry? Then you shut your face, too. The terms "right wing" and "left wing" were created for baby boomers who had just given up religion and were looking for a new gang to join. Calling yourself Democrat or Republican is for pussies.
posted by: Choco on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

David Von Drehle, in a cover article for the Washington Post Magazine, on politics and politicians (Er, congenital flip-floppers)

Once upon a time in America, there was a political party that believed in a strong central government, high taxes and bold public works projects. This party was popular on the college campuses of New England and was the overwhelming choice of African American voters.
It was the Republican Party.
The Republicans got started as a counterweight to the other party: the party of low taxes and limited government, the party suspicious of Eastern elites, the party that thought Washington should butt out of the affairs of private property owners.
The Democrats.

Garrison Keillor on how...

the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk...

Michael Moore at the RNC

Hanging out around the convention, I've encountered a number of the Republican faithful who aren't delegates. They warm up to me when they don't find horns or a tail. Talking to them, I discover they're like many people who call themselves Republicans but aren't really Republicans. At least not in the radical-right way that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft and Co. have defined Republicans.
I asked one man who told me he was a "proud Republican," "Do you think we need strong laws to protect our air and water?"
"Well, sure," he said. "Who doesn't?"
I asked whether women should have equal rights, including the same pay as men.
"Absolutely," he replied.
"Would you discriminate against someone because he or she is gay?"
"Um, no." The pause — I get that a lot when I ask this question — is usually because the average good-hearted person instantly thinks about a gay family member or friend.
posted by: Choco on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

The WSJ on Rove's election strategy and the move rightward (instead of to the center)

Since the advent of television brought presidential candidates into voters' living rooms, the general-election campaigns of both major parties have been targeted toward winning swing voters at the political center. Now, more than any modern campaign, the Bush effort, led by White House adviser Karl Rove, has downplayed that goal in favor of a drive to wring more votes from the president's committed core of supporters. Mr. Rove calls it a "mobilization election."
Viewers of this week's Republican convention won't hear much about the strategy. For the broad national television audience, the party is showcasing moderates such as former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Some party strategists, accustomed to the more traditional courtship of suburban swing voters, consider Mr. Rove's approach risky. Playing to conservative Christians and other elements of the Republican base could alienate wavering voters such as Jews who are attracted by the president's strong support for Israel. One of Mr. Bush's initiatives that might turn away moderates is his embrace of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Yet the math behind the strategy is powerful. Some 195 million Americans were eligible to vote in 2000. Only 105 million actually did, splitting virtually evenly between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore. If the views of nonvoters resembled those of voters, as opinion surveys suggest they did, there were as many as 45 million potential voters for both Messrs. Bush and Gore who stayed home.
Among the group of latent Bush supporters, the president's strategists have focused particularly on white Christian conservatives. Exit polls of actual 2000 voters show conservative Christians making up 14% of the electorate, but Republican Party surveys suggest that the same group is typically closer to 19% of voters.
From that, Mr. Rove concludes that some five million conservative Christians failed to turn out four years ago. Because 82% of those who voted backed Mr. Bush, the nonvoters represented a missed opportunity in the range of four million votes.
Moreover, Christian conservatives are part of one big demographic trend that is working in Republicans' favor -- the rapid development of "exurbs" beyond the suburbs of big cities. Married families with children, many of them conservative Christians, are flocking to these exurbs but are often slow to register and vote.

But is demography destiny? (Hispanic and Asian populations in America are projected to grow by a third from 2002 to 2009, while Whites are only expected to grow 2.8%)

The nation's face is being reshaped in ways that aren't helpful to the Bush effort. The Hispanic population is exploding in size, and Hispanic voters are heavily Democratic. Other nonwhite ethnic groups are also growing. If all demographic groups split their votes this fall as they did in 2000, the Bush team estimates that Mr. Bush would finish with three million fewer votes than Democratic candidate John Kerry. In 2000, Mr. Bush lost to Al Gore by 500,000 votes in the popular vote. The growth in Hispanics largely accounts for the bigger gap.
Other trends also put bumps in Mr. Bush's road. Younger voters who grew up in the era of Bill Clinton rather than Ronald Reagan seem harder for Republicans to reach. Also, Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg notes that birth and demographic trends make them the most diverse generation yet: Just 65% of them are white, compared to 90% of seniors 65 and older. Early on, these youngest voters were the most supportive of the war in Iraq of any age group. Now they are the least.
Among women in 2000, Mr. Bush was 12 points behind Mr. Gore, but as president he seemed to narrow the gender gap after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Republicans spoke hopefully of "security moms." Yet polls show the gap has widened again. Meanwhile, Democrats are mounting an unprecedented effort to register unmarried women -- an estimated 20% of the electorate that tends to be less educated, less affluent and Democrat-leaning.
Many Arab-Americans and Muslims, who once seemed an emerging Republican constituency, are upset over Iraq. Among senior citizens, Mr. Bush had hoped that with the new Medicare prescription drug law, he'd more than make up the four percentage points by which he trailed Mr. Gore among voters 60 and older. Instead, polls show roughly half of seniors oppose the law, and a majority oppose him.

And Bush is losing in the battleground states...

The contest for the White House remains tight, according to the latest Zogby Interactive poll of likely voters in 16 battleground states. Although the map is awash in blue, with President Bush leading in only two of the battleground states, down from the three states he held three weeks ago, the results in three-quarters of the states in the survey are within the margin of error -- meaning those states remain very hotly contested. Mr. Kerry holds the top spot in 14 of the 16 polled states, up from 13 in the previous poll.
posted by: Choco on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Very good discussion ...until Choco threw wrenches into the mix.

posted by: Alex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Then in 1988, when we won with the Bush senior campaign and carried the highest total of evangelical votes ever in American history, we lost as we always do -- the Republicans -- we lost the Jewish vote and the Hispanic vote and all those votes. We lost the Catholic vote. We were the first modern presidency to win an election and it was a landslide and not win the Catholic vote. It was barely, but we lost the Catholic vote.

How did we do it? We carried 82 percent or 83 percent of the evangelical vote. I remember when it was all over-- this was one of the reasons I got a job in the White House -- but I remember when it was all over, there was great shock from me and others saying, "Whoa, this is unhealthy." We immediately began going after the Catholic vote.

While at the same time, we were frightened by the fact that we lost all these votes and still won the White House. The message did come home. My God, you can win the White House with nothing but evangelicals if you can get enough of them, if you get them all, and they're a huge number. ...

The Jesus Factor

posted by: NeoDude on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Demographics change.

posted by: mark Buehner on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I once met Charles Murray (before he revealed himself as a racist in The Bell Curve) and asked him why government programs couldn't promote cultural conservatism. His answer was similar to the response to my posting above: that bureacracies are not good at that sort of thing.

My question (now, not then) is whether libertarianism is good at promoting cultural conservatism. I maintain that in many cases, it is not.

posted by: Arjun on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Cultural conservatism is by definition the status quo. Todays cultural 'conservatives' are going through a similar crisis of identity that the so called progressives are going through, in that they are no longer what they used to be. Being pro-life is not a conservative position by the definition of the word, abortion has been legal for a generation. Gay rights are on the razors edge, and almost certainly will tip towards the norm as the less tolerant generations die off to be replaced by the generations growing up with Will and Grace. 'Conservatives' have always had the problem of assuming they were the silent majority when that wasnt always the case. That trend will continue, and indeed speed up. The liberatian wing of the party grows stronger every year. I predict the cultural conservatives to become increasingly shrill just as their radical mirror images in the far left has as less and less people listen to them.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Many comments seem to come from non-real world univ ivory tower parsing of ...

lex, agree with most of what you stated.

If anyone out there with any lottery money who feels the same--or runs across a big lottery winner who wants to effect some good changes for the country... We need to start a viable third party for Smart Thinking Independents.

Will add that Means-testing for Medicare is needed for seniors and for any benefits for boomers. They can jump in the ocean with what they did to this country with their inflated housing stock and funny moneys, carpe diem, etc. They looted and they can go to h ___ if they think I'm going to pay for it. I am already on record re govt. employee and univ & college --city level, coungy, to state pension system cmtes regarding. And,it is looting. [I have some other ideas so they can pay for it, rather than the rest too.

posted by: Alex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]


The Web is an amazing organizational and fund-raising tool. So no, you don't need a pot of money, although you need lots more time than I have. Keys IMHO are to do what Trippi did for Dean but focus the message and the weblogs, paypal pointers, meetups etc toward a few very well-defined, receptive, and wired groups:

1) split-ticket or independent voters with a college degree, primarily but not exclusively in the western US, where Dem-Repub party affiliation's weakest

2) past and present military

3) asian-americans, cuban-americans and, if possible, mexican-americans.

I'm not a political consultant or a marketing guru but targeting these groups should not be too difficult. The military group would be the easiest to reach, and probably the most powerful weapon against the two parties. Especially so given their huge concentration in vote-rich Texas.

These folks have been treated like dirt by Rumsfeld and many are desperately poor, so there should be lots of easy poaching from Repubs. As to poaching military from the Dems, where else can you find such a huge concentration of pro-national security, hawkish latinos and african-americans? And they're of course easily targeted. Hell, just purchase a customer email and phone list from USAA and you're off to the races.

Re the non-military, educated moderates-- call them the Dresner/Sullivan crowd-- you can use the obvious web channels and also organize meetups. Marketing research, election data, exit polls, all should lead yield the zip codes that have lots of split-ticket voters and/or a preponderance of college-educated, culturally-liberal but fiscally-conservative types.

As to reaching the asian- and mexican-americans, that's a tougher one, but of course the potential rewards of solving it are huge, given the concentration of these potential voters in CA, FL and TX. The Dems take mex-americans for granted; Dems don't really understand anything about their concerns or main issues. No one pays any attention to asians at all. Young cubans are transitioning from Repubs to Dems and could be ripe for poaching.

If you sense a geographic pattern here, you're hip to my tricks. Win the lion's share of past and present military + educated, moderate Dems and Repubs + asians and latinos, and you snatch California, Texas and Florida from the two parties and also carry most of the western states. Add NY and NJ and a few other independent-rich outlier states and the White House is yours.

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Let the two parties focus on the rust belt. I have no problem with not being competitive in highly protectionist, old-economy states like OH, MI, PA, MO etc, not least because these states' share of the electoral vote is shrinking and will continue to shrink considerably every four years.

Call them the Schwarzenegger voters: tolerant and hawkish, confident about the global economy and pro-immigration, and already at least a plurality in the growing states that within a generation will dominate national politics.

posted by: lex on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

I am beginning to suspect this lex is a sock puppet or whatever the internet jargon is for a made-up character. Let's look at some of his suggestions

He want's a small government *hawkish* party

But of course, the military by the lowest way of figuring it 18% of the Federal Budget. When Veterans benetfits are added in, and social security is disaggregated from the federal budget (as it is self-financing for now) ,military expenditures go over 40% of the discresionary federal budget. Add that to the distortion in the economy caused by military spending, and the even worse concentration of power in the hands of the government. Hawkish and libertarian is an oxymoron.

Schwartzeneger appeals to pro-immigration voters

Schwartzeneger did not appeal to pro-immigration voters to get elected. Quite the opposite, he was put in by voters sick and tired of the illegal aliens and quite frankly legal mass immigration. I don't care what his convention speach said, he was voted in by anti-immigration forces. He knows it and that's why he has promised to veto the illegal alien driver liscense act the legislature is sending him.

The military is libertarian

Oh, jeez, let's think about that for a milisecond. The military is ****the most socialistic*** institution in America. That's why its medicine sucks. (I was in, active, on the ground Bosnia too -- no Purple Heart, thank god)
Every been on a military base-- ever notice the exchanges all stock the same cheap civilian where throughout the world. Even notice the high pregnancy rate of single enlisted women (free medical care, plus you get out of deployments). I am starting to rant, so I'll shut up.

posted by: stari_momak on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

The socialists? They've won! Masquerading as businessmen. Guys who never built a company (like Cheney), never operated anything but a monopoly successfully (Bush), and now condone and operate huge tax-supported defacto monopolies that are just as unresponsive to customers (have you flown an airline recently?) and just as bullying as we always feared government run operations would be. And the tariff is higher! Private monopolies have a 30% margin to feed the egos of their socialistic officers vs. 3% for trad government monopolies.

What have we gained? Nothing.


posted by: bliffle on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

The Democrats will fracture and cease to exist pre-election. The Rs will do it post.

The rump of the Republican party (social conservatives) will own the name.

A centerist libertarian party will be formed to oppose the Republicans.

There will be a dwindling left for one or two election cycles. Then they will go the way of the socialists in America.

I predicted the broad outlines of this on 16 May 03 in a guest blog at WoC (Socialism is Dead). Nothing has happened to change my mind except Kerry who will make the defeat all the more complete.

posted by: M. Simon on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

Is there any one out there with a practical plan to stop immigration legal or otherwise?

If so please apply it to drugs first as a test.

The reason you can't stop it is simple: it is profitable to the individual to come to America. We can cut this trend and reverse it by making America unprofitable.

It is so easy you got to wonder why it has never been tried.

posted by: M. Simon on 08.29.04 at 01:07 PM [permalink]

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